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Game of Thrones
Obama Signs Landmark Defense Treaty in Manila

The U.S.-Manila relationship just got cozier. Today President Obama signed a 10-year defense agreement with the Philippines, perhaps the most important development to come out of his visit to Asia. The archipelago nation booted American forces out of the country in 1992, ushering in a new era of Filipino nationalism and self-determination. But China’s rise and subsequent territorial aggression in the South China Sea has had Manila looking to the United States for support. The WaPo reports:

Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, wrote in an e-mail that the defense cooperation agreement will not only increase the United States’ presence in the region but also will “justify an increase of U.S. military assistance to the Philippines as a major non-NATO ally.”

“The Philippines can use this agreement as a leverage against China’s military and para-military presence in the Spratlys,” Banlaoi wrote, referring to an archipelago of largely uninhabited islands claimed by China and several other countries.

Obama’s Asian pivot has been largely fixed to a few contested pieces of geography: the Senkaku (or Diaoyu) islands and the Spratly islands, all of which are claimed by China. Manila lays claim to the Spratlys, where the Chinese navy regularly patrols and antagonizes Filipino fishermen. Both tiny territories have the potential to spark a war between China and its neighbors.

Though the treaty has been under negotiation for eight months now, the signing was by no means inevitable. The President has been lambasted for weak responses to the Ukraine crisis, the Syrian civil war, and generally insufficient attention paid to the concerns of America’s allies. The Administration likely hopes this treaty provides assurance not only to Manila but to U.S. partners in Asia and around the world that Washington stands by its friends.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Based on our recent track record, this treaty is worth the proverbial bucket of warm spit to Manila.

    • rheddles

      Depends on how we rebuild Subic Bay.

    • El Gringo

      No, at least a bucket of warm spit is useful and reliable. A bucket of spit will still be there even if China invades. And, at the very least, a bucket of spit can be thrown at the Chinese when they invade. Which is better than nothing.

  • Pete

    Big mistake.

    Manila wants america to fight its war. And for what?

    • Fred

      Sure, let’s just stick our heads in the sand. Or maybe we can put our fingers in our ears and shout “lalalalalala” and the rest of the world will just go away. What color is the sky in your world?

      • Pete

        Sure Fred, get involved in everyone elses fights. That’s the ticket, alright.

        By the way, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll out today (April 30) says most Americans want to pull back from the world stage. Why? They’re sick of stupid wars and brainless defense commitments to other countries.

        So if trouble starts, saddle up, Fed, and ride to the sound of the gun powder. Just don’t expect the rest of us to join your crusade.

  • Breif2

    How nice of the WaPo to finally provide us with a vague description of the agreement in the eighth (!) paragraph of its story. Harumph.

    “The archipelago nation booted American forces out of the country in 1992”

    The congregation will now turn to the hymn: Yanqui Please Don’t Go.

  • bigtoad45 .

    What a huge mistake. We owe them nothing. We kicked Japan out of their country and provided them billions of dollars for the use of a couple of bases. During that time they stole everything that wasn’t nailed down. Even stole the fire truck right off of the base. Our government had to go buy it back. Then they booted us. The years have rolled by and through massive corruption they have not managed to build an armed force that could fight their way out of a wet paper bag. All the while arguing and giving China the middle finger… So what? We now have to risk our people to defend them? What exactly do we owe countries such as theirs or even Japan for that matter??? Let them fight their own wars like countries have been doing for thousands of years. Borders have been moving back and forth since the beginning of time. In ten years if the P.I. and Japan are then called “China” I won’t cry a single tear… Screw em…

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